William D. Waltz

Necessary Rebel

It is absolutely imperative that gods be damned, idols be killed, that governments be toppled, that assumptions be questioned. Rebellion is a trick of survival, a muscle that must be flexed or lost to atrophy. America is meandering down a sleepy cul de sac where rebellion of any sort may soon be an impossibility.

Strangely enough, the attack on rebellion might begin with the narrowing of the generation gap, a phenomenon that delights most everyone. The ‘60s generation, now fat and happy, is glad to share their record collections and to party with their children. Unfortunately this camaraderie can create a false sense of complicity. Differences exist and are necessary. The gap between the baby boomers and their parents, however gut-wrenching, provided a gateway to a new way of thinking. One generation must step over the bones of the other.

More perniciously, marketeers have tightened the screws on free-thinking with intensified efforts to sell their idea of revolution, which owes more to the bustling global village than to insurgency, and have peddled it under the brandname Alternative as fervently as they hawked the Summer of Love. Consequently, healthy rebellion is sublimated while impotent individualism thrives. The streets are full of individuals expressing themselves through the products they purchased at the alternative mall rather than through their ideas. Undoubtedly it is easier to get a tattoo than to change legislation or to re-distribute a single dime.

In our market-driven society the accoutrements of counter-culture are routinely repackaged and marketed to the cow-eyed masses who neither recognize the cultural origins of the styles they don nor do they care. Like an anaconda, with each paradigm shift, Pop Culture, the face of the status quo, breathes in the nuances of change, and then bares down with even greater force, appropriating the very symbols and languages of difference. From Surrealism to Hiphop, the great snake has digested the very essence of each new school and shat out their skeletons which are then served to general public. In the process, meaning is obscured if not obliterated. Rebellion in America is in jeopardy.

Although capitalism's hegemony is nearly complete, this sleeper hold can’t be sustained indefinitely. Change is the law of nature. Every system, be it economic, religious, or political, that has come before has knelt, at last, exhausted, and awaited its final anointment, a blow to its aching head delivered by the Rebel. If that wallop had not come, the people may have perished instead. The Rebel is a member of the community, not a mere individual left to his or her own eccentricities. Let us not trade rebellion for the status quo's hackneyed notion of individualism. The greatest act of rebellion is to give one's self away, to make not a profit but a difference.